Liars in the news (5×8 – 6/7/11)

1) THE WIDE WHACKY WORLD OF LIARS

Liars. It’s a word that once stung, at least before everyone — or so it seems — started lying. The big story yesterday, of course, was Rep. Anthony Weiner admitting that he lied in his many, many denials that he didn’t send sexually suggestive images. He also vowed not to resign, apparently showing little shame.

But that wasn’t the only story about liars in the news. The owners of the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan have finally admitted — sort of –that they lied, too. For months, they’ve denied a meltdown after the earthquake and tsunami. Then they admitted there might have been partial meltdowns. And yesterday the officials finally admitted there were meltdowns at all three reactors. They also said the release of radiation was much greater than they let on.

Arnold Schwarzenegger? Liar. John Edwards? Liar.

Lying isn’t a new thing — especially for politicians and businesses with a lot at stake. What has changed, perhaps, is our collective shoulder shrug.

We are, a 2009 NewsWeek story on the subject suggested, a culture of liars.


Research has linked socially successful people to those who are good liars. Students who succeed academically get picked for the best colleges, despite the fact that, as one recent Duke University study found, as many as 90 percent of high-schoolers admit to cheating. Even lying adolescents are more popular among their peers.

And all it takes is a quick flip of the remote to see how our public figures fare when they get caught in a lie: Clinton keeps his wife and goes on to become a national hero. Fabricating author James Frey gets a million-dollar book deal. Eliot Spitzer’s wife stands by his side, while “Appalachian hiker” Mark Sanford still gets to keep his post. If everyone else is being rewarded for lying, don’t we need to lie, too, just to keep up?

Discussion point: When is it OK to lie? At what point do you hold people responsible for lies. One more: Is lying primarily a “guy thing?”


2) NICKEL AND DIMING THE BASEBALL FAN

The Hardball Times annually examines the add-ons that baseball teams tack on to the price of tickets — things like charging you extra to print a ticket out on your printer. This year, there’s some evidence of the effect of a backlash on fees — many teams have reduced the add-ons. One team that hasn’t: The Twins.


So, is it finally happening then? Is 2011 the year evil becomes stupid? Teams have added these extra fees to make an extra profit for themselves. (I know Ticketmaster plays a role, too, but when you look at the list above it’s clearly not just Ticketmaster. Making it more obvious the teams benefit from this, almost all clubs offer varying surcharges based on the price of the ticket. I gave a list of cheap seats vs. pricey seats add-on charges last year if you want to look. Things haven’t changed much since then in that regard).

Between increasing costs on one hand and a lingering recession on the other, is this finally the point where it doesn’t pay to escalate these costs?

But why should baseball be any different than many other businesses whose actual price for their product(s) isn’t close to the stated price? For example, I have Vonage’s $24.95 home telephone service plan. Cost after additional fees? $34. My Dish Network package is $29.95 but after the add-ons, it’s pushing $60. And, of course, airline ticket prices as advertised lost touch with reality years ago.

But there’s good news in the world of baseball. The third episode of the ongoing baseball rivalry between Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski has been released…

Here’s episode one and two.

The Minnesota Twins today will replant two of the signature trees that once graced the wall behind centerfield. The trees were removed because players insisted they were responsible for their hitting woes. Last night, the Twins banged out 10 hits in Cleveland to win their 5th straight. There are trees in centerfield in Cleveland.

3) I CAN SEE YOUR PLANET FROM HERE

A News Cut reader had an insightful observation the other day when I posted some new NASA video of the space shuttle. He said NASA only got around to providing outstanding video of its missions after the country started backpedaling from its manned space flight program.

Here’s the latest one: Hi-def photographs: The special places that spacepeople focus on whenever they get a moment. You’ll want to go full screen on this one.

But the view from terra firma is a bit more harsh. The Homecoming Project Web site opens today. It’s put together by a widow. Her returning husband died not long after returning from war. “Almost every soldier I talked to said they were having problems,” she said. These included drug abuse, binge drinking, attempted suicide and spousal abuse. The New York Times’ Lens picture blog today provides some of the most heartbreaking photographs that document life after the happy reunions.

The War At Home from Erin Trieb on Vimeo.

4) TORNADO REPORT CARD

Twin Cities Daily Planet has an initial assessment of Minneapolis’ response to the tornado in north Minneapolis two weeks ago. Some said the city didn’t appear to have a plan. Some didn’t wait for one:


Richard Howell, Bishop of Shiloh Temple, said the experience has been productive. “The biggest issue we’ve been facing is understanding who is in charge,” he said. Shiloh opened its doors right away, helping thousands of people within the first week. It wasn’t until the Friday after the tornado that they were given a paradigm diagram, that explained where Shiloh fit in with the city’s relief plan. “According to the paradigm, our services are basically human need,” he said. Howell hadn’t known before then there was a list. But, as a church, “we were not going to wait for someone to tell us to help people.”

5) HELL WEEK

Journalists don’t often get a chance to watch “hell week” with the Navy Seals. Photographer Joe McNally is one exception. “As my guide and adviser, himself a SEAL, told me, they had been reluctant to let the press into Hell Week, ’cause they “didn’t want America’s moms seeing what we were doing to their babies.” I gained entree by virtue of being on assignment for the National Geographic, doing a story on the limits of the human body. When you do a story like that, you pretty much have to make SEAL training one of your objectives,” he said.

Outstanding narrative and imagery here.

Bonus: All that’s required to participate in the world shin kicking championship is “two feisty feet and as much straw as you can shove in your pant legs to protect your shins.” It’s a metaphor for life, really.

“If you win, it’s very pleasant,” an organizer says. Quite.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted on Monday that he had indeed sent inappropriate photos of himself on Twitter and then lied to evade responsibility. Today’s Question: Does telling a lie about a personal matter ruin a politician’s credibility in public matters?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Obama and the white vote.

Second hour: In her new book, Janny Scott provides a meticulously researched look into the life of Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: How can we end hunger in Minnesota?

Second hour: James Stewart, author of the book about 1980’s Wall Street called “Den of Thieves.” He spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The immigration crackdown on employers.

Second hour: Comedienne Aisha Tyler.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Every day, hundreds of Twin Cities residents take to buses, carpools and vans to travel to work down south. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier introduces us to this exotic species.

Former Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty is scheduled to give a speech in Chicago today about the federal budget and the economy. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik is there.

Hunger-Free Minnesota, a coalition of nonprofits and private companies, launches a campaign to ensure no Minnesotan goes without food. The plan is based on a study that shows hungry Minnesotans miss some 100 million meals each year. MPR’s Julie Siple reports that leaders say they’ll fill that gap in three years. A historian who has examined hunger relief efforts expected to say the mechanisms are there, but still have fallen short in the past.

MPR’s Euan Kerr says as the League of American Orchestras arrives in Minneapolis for it’s annual conference, some tough questions need to be tackled about the modern classical music business, and why so many orchestras are in such financial trouble.

  • Justin H

    We stopped caring when politicians lied about policy a long time ago. It’s more recent we’ve become less aghast when they lie about their personal lives. I think our priorities are a little out of whack.

  • Tyler

    Regarding “great video” of the space shuttle – I disagree that NASA is only taking amazing footage now that the shuttle program is shutting down. Instead, I think the commenter is only now becoming aware of some of the amazing footage and stills being produced as publicity builds around the last shuttle launch.

    There are numerous picture blogs (The Big Picture and In Focus among them) that have had amazing collections of photos, not to mention the numerous IMAX movies that have been made. Also, Apollo 13 had used copious amounts of archival (and CG) footage of the Saturn V rocket, but I don’t think the Space Shuttle has been the focus of any movie.

    I won’t deny, though, that NASA’s “marketing” hasn’t been great. It’s been left to volunteers to promote the idea of going to the stars…Youtube is blocked at work, but someone has been setting NASA footage to Carl Sagan’s writings – search for it. You can’t help but be inspired.

  • John P.

    I don’t think we stopped caring that they lied, so much as resigned ourselves to the fact that we can’t stop it.

  • davidz

    Thanks for the NASA video. Seeing the planet like that, in all its glory, is a nice way to get the day started.

  • andy

    I think people have always lied, especially when in positions of power. However, I think it’s harder in today’s world to get away with it because of the available technologies at hand. If this were 150 years ago, Rep. Weiner (insert Beavis laugh here) would simply have had a mistress and the general public wouldn’t be the wiser.

    I’d be willing to bet that more of our politicians were cheating and lying in the past, but people didn’t/couldn’t pay attention to it. And even those who new about it (spouses, close friends) wouldn’t say anything for fear of the consequences by those in power.

  • Greg W

    Wow. That entry about Hell Week is incredible.

    I wonder what I want so badly I would be willing to go through something like that.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Regarding Hell Week:

    Nice post on the sado-masochistic recreational activities of people whose chosen profession is assassination.